Education - Race-ILM
While there are many ingredients in a good educational system, the ultimate test for success is graduation rates from high school and readiness for college education or career training. Until the ‘No Child Left Behind’ law required it, this basic information was largely unknown. In this case, perhaps ignorance is bliss, as the results were appalling--about 1 in 3 students nationwide weren’t completing high school! Many others, who completed school, were still uneducated. Wilmington, unfortunately, contributed to this depressing picture.
This administration’s ‘Race to the Top’ grants program challenges states to revamp their educational systems to achieve a 90% graduation rate by 2020. North Carolina was one of the first 12 states awarded a grant--$400 million of which Wilmington got $3 million. So, how well is Wilmington doing with this money?
Pretty well it seems! In the 2009-10 school year alone, dropouts were down 23.4% from the previous school year. Wilmington achieved a 78% graduation rate, raising it to the NC statewide average. We are now shooting for an 85% graduation rate by 2013-14 school year with 72% of those students then enrolling in post-secondary education.
Most of the credit, of course, goes to teachers and administrators of individual schools. Add to this, however, a promising innovation—the Early College High School (ECHS) program—in which NC leads the nation. Wilmington has 2 of these 5-year institutions--Isaac Bear (est. 2006) and Wilmington (est.2007). They are integral parts of UNCW and Cape Fear CC respectively.
Their goal is to provide some 400 students who otherwise might not pursue their education with closely supervised studies adapted to individual needs and schedules. Successful students receive a Community College ‘Associates’ (AA) degree and guaranteed admission to NC’s state university system. Here, in just 2 more years, they can then earn a Bachelor’s degree.
While this innovation is too new to fully evaluate, early results are promising for these 400 Wilmington students and the future of ECHS education in the city. Consider the following:
- In both Wilmington and statewide the ECHS dropout rates are near zero;
- Enrollment applications are soaring as word spreads;
- Isaac Bear already achieved the highest score under NC’s ‘Great Schools’ ranking system;
- Wilmington ECHS, too new to be ranked, still outshined both other Wilmington and state high schools on standardized tests
Next: Race To The Top—How Is North Carolina Doing?